I Remember Colon in 1912
Newspaper clipping from The Colon Express, April 9, and April 15, 1981, by Dale Baad.: “I remember when there were no houses or cottages on Palmer Lake with the exception of Maple Street. One of the favorite swimming holes was the “wash out” on the north shore of Palmer Lake … no swimsuits required. Another popular spot was the bridge over Swan creek on Evelyn Isle (now Blackstone Island) just before it emptied into Sturgeon Lake … also no swimsuits. When the girls were with us, we hiked two miles to Long Lake Bridge or stopped at the foot of Second Street, then known as Schmerhorns, wearing our swimming suits under our clothes.
I remember when the center portion of Palmer Lake was full of logs and stumps … excellent bass fishing but hazardous even for rowboats. One winter the water was abnormally low … the stumps stuck out of the ice as much as two feet and the logs laid on top of the ice. Volunteers started cutting stumps and logs, hauling them off the lake. The results were so dramatic to public minded citizens that the Lake Association started a “stump removal” fund. In 1948 they opened all the gates of the dam and raceway, lowering the water level to the lowest possible. This time they hired a gang equipped with some special saws, and assisted by volunteers, they left the lake as you see it now.
I remember, “hitching rails” on both sides of State and Main (Blackstone Avenue) Streets. On Saturday nights, the spaces were full of buggies and wagons.
I remember the “Jenz Gang” … a group of sportsmen and hunters who had a bunk house at Paulding in the U. P. for the annual deer hunting holiday. They traveled by train to Watersmeet, then by sleigh to their cabin. The “regulars” were: John Woilfinger, Wm. Tomlinson, Frank Hill, Frank Lamberson, Dr. P. L. Harman, Hart Schfmaster, True Mowry, D. L. Ackey and Eli Dane. I worked at Wolfinger’s Hardware nights, mornings and Saturdays. The hardware was the “clubhouse”. In case of emergency, any member of the Jenz Gang could be located after 7 p.m. at the clubhouse. After listening to the stories for two years, I am surprised there are any more “white tails” left in the U. P. or rabbits in St. Joseph County.
I remember the LIONESS, a steam driven launch, built by Mel Lyon, which operated between the village dock and Coney Point (now Palmer Point) on Sundays and holidays, transporting picnickers for a day’s outing. The power was generated by a wood fired upright boiler. The Jenz gang hired the Lioness to spear garfish, which lay on top of the water during the hot dog days of August. An afternoon of the sport removed a lot of predatory fish from the lake.
I remember Ambrose Crane, the “Pie Plant King”, who lived in a shack on north Swan Street. He was a college graduate and a cripple, using two canes in walking. He bragged that he and a college roommate took a vow on their graduation day that they would never do a day’s work in their lives … and Ambrose never did. He raised and sold rhubarb (pie plant), roots and stalks, and received assistance from relatives.
I remember the “hand pumper” fire engine.
I remember Dad Riggles, who made a good living catching and selling dressed “bluegills” … illegally … then as now. Not only Colon people patronized Dad, but salesmen calling in Colon would send one of Dad’s customers a card, ordering a number of fish for a specified time on Friday when they would be on their way home. The money passed on to Dad, and he rarely knew who actually got the fish.”
I remember when the first automobiles were equipped with acetylene gas lights.
Boys and girls sold corncobs for 5¢ a bag that were used as kindling to start fires. They picked up the cobs at the mill, free. They would fill five or six bags and made their rounds. Some “dealers” had regular customers … one bag every Saturday.
Ninety-five per cent of the homes and stores were heated in winter by one or more “Round Oak” heaters. Cooking and baking were done in cast iron ranges during the cold months and kerosene stoves in summer … kerosene was 10¢ a gallon.
The Sunday excursion on the “Air Line” to Jackson and Detroit … leave Colon on the 7 a.m. train and return on the 9 p.m. train.
I remember the arrival of the “Nickolo” movies … admissions 5¢ for children, 10¢ for adults. … black and white pictures, silent, but accompanied by a live piano player using the popular ragtime music.
Madam Marantette with her trained horse and ostrich act … performing on the street at least once each summer.
The horse drawn sprinkling wagon which wet down the main streets in summer to control the dust. The driver filled the wagon at the millrace with a hand pump.
Balloon ascensions … a feature attraction for every celebration.
The arrival of the “Kentucky Boys” and the “Indiana Gang” who tented on Sturgeon Lake for three weeks of fishing and entertaining.
The LKG (Lamb Knit Goods) factory whistle blew at 7 a.m. (begin work), at 12 noon (dinner), 1 p.m. (start afternoon work) and 5 p.m. (stop work). We set our clocks by the whistle.
“Gene” Grimes and his popcorn wagon on the SE corner of State Street and Main Street (now Blackstone Avenue). Even if you didn’t like popcorn, the tantalizing aroma “got” to you!
The large third floor hall … over Bartholomews and (J. Hartman’s (The Godfrey Block) was the location of public dances and a roller skating rink.
Gertle Palmer … dressmaker to the elite. She was a very clever designer and an excellent seamstress.”